Today, I watched a movie on TV. Lo and behold, it's the old classic, STAR TREK!
And I garnered some insights about how religious beliefs can arise. Here's what I watched.
The Star Trek ship moved towards one planet, which had a race of people (not humans, though), that lived, for over a thousand years, by reason and logic. They were able to progress technologically, from living in caves and wielding clubs, to living in huts and carrying bows and arrows. Yet, when Picard's ship drew by, mysterious things started to happen (especially when Picard was beamed down to the planet), and a cult of religion worshipping "the Picard" began to form. Irrationality reigned, and people began worshipping "the Picard's" wishes and desires. In essence, a few individuals lost their ability to rationalize (especially when the ship's resident doctor cured a seemingly dead person). This started to grow and grow and grow, until it almost took the life of an innocent woman.
Yet, Picard decided to solve the problem - he beamed up the leader, the wisest woman in the tribe. He educated her on the ways that humans progress, and the way that they themselves are also living beings, limited by the time frames of life and death. Through the matriarch of the tribe, he managed to convince the people to regain their rationality and progress as a species.
One thing within the episode struck me - when the woman was about to be killed, a dialogue sprung up:
Man (about to kill woman): This is The Picard's wishes!
Woman (about to be killed): Are you sure this is His wishes?
Man: Yes! It absolutely is!
Woman: This is the problem when you lose your rationality and try to determine His wishes.
Absolutely - the failur of religion is when humans try to determine the wishes of their supreme beings. That's when our powers of reason fail us, and we fail to see clearly what is going on. Collective human wisdom has helped us to progress, but individually clouded minds have abused religion to fulfil their own deluded minds' wishes of safety and peace, causing more disorder and turmoil instead. This is why religion must not hold sway in society - the potential for abuse is just simply too large. When humans collectively use wisdom and logic to solve our problems, we end up progressing, rather than regressing.
More on wisdom and logic in the next entry.